What Baker-Carter Got Right

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Over at TomPaine.com, Rob Richie and Steven Hill examine the recommendations made by the Commission on Federal Election Reform headed by James Baker and Jimmy Carter.

Ritchie and Hill say, “We believe it a mistake to condemn the entire report because of the understandable voter ID objections.” (The voter ID objections that we have discussed here at Donklephant.)

The authors seem most impressed by the call for universal voter registration:

The commission’s boldest call is for universal voter registration, a practice used by many democracies around the world in which all eligible voters are automatically registered to vote. Universal registration would add more than 50 million unregistered Americans�nearly three in 10 eligible voters�to the voter rolls.

They also point out where the commission has addressed some of the concerns people had with the 2004 elections including “nonpartisan election officials,” “paper trails,” “national elections assistance,” and “a revamped presidential primary schedule.”

Where do they say the commission has fallen short?

Although they would bring the United States up to international norms, none of these proposals are the transformative changes that might truly shake up partisan calculations. There’s no call for direct election of the president despite the Electoral College’s malfunction in 2000 and the ever-declining number of contested states. Commissioners neglect the potential of instant runoff voting despite recent high-profile elections with non-majority winners and “spoilers.”

The report is equally silent on establishing a constitutional right to vote, despite the obvious adverse impact on elections of having more than 13,000 jurisdictions able to make independent decisions about running federal elections. It overlooks how nonpartisan redistricting, campaign finance reform, fusion and proportional voting are necessary means to take on the shocking lack of voter choice and distortions in representation in our legislative elections. It doesn’t even propose ideas like citizens assemblies to at least put such fundamental reform proposals on the table.

TomPaine.com is a decidedly progressive website, so there is some loaded language in there. But, putting that aside, aren’t there some good points in there?

TomPaine.com: What Baker-Carter Got Right

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